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Central Otago Race Community Gutted To Lose Race Meeting

By Matt Smith on Sat, 2 Jul 2016

The loss of the Central Otago Racing Club meeting in late February is a loss not only for the club, but for the local farming community.

That is the view of club president Mike White as the club faces just one date next season rather than two, based on the New Zealand board’s final calendar for next year.

White said that the late February date, dubbed “cockies and contractors” day, had been growing in popularity.

“It had been getting bigger and bigger. We sold 35 marquees last year,” he said.

“We turned over $44,000 in the last couple of years and that would be as big as any weekday meeting in New Zealand, apart from the likes of your Melbourne Cup days.”

The club had made submissions to retain the date but, despite falling on some sympathetic ears at some levels of New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing, the club’s efforts were unsuccessful and White does not expect to see it reappear in the future, especially with the loss of the meeting at Cromwell two days later.

“I’d say it’s gone forever. We would never get it back, I wouldn’t think. Because we’re out of the way a little bit, [the trainers] would come for two days but not for one day.”

The club would work on getting the regular attendees from the February meeting to attend the club’s early January date, but White said the meetings tended to cater for different crowds.

Holidaymakers make up the majority of the crowd at the Omakau meetings in both codes in January.

“We will try to get some of those people who come to cockies day into the Christmas meeting but it’s a different crowd.

“All the people that come to the cockies day never go racing other than that day, so all the marquee holders are pretty gutted about that.”

Cecil scores Thompson’s sixth Great Western success

Shaun Fannin celebrates his Great Western Steeplechase win.

John Hawkins/Fairfax NZ

Shaun Fannin celebrates his Great Western Steeplechase win.

Trainer Kelly Thompson has won Riverton’s Great Western Steeplechase for the sixth time.

In strong winds and bitterly cold and wet conditions, Thompson’s charge, Cecil, took out the Western by 55 1/4 lengths on Sunday.

Thompson had to scratch his other Western hope, Keep It Tight, because of a leg infection.

Cecil was left clear in front when The Fox lost rider Hana Bognuda  at the second last brush.

“He took off early, dipped on landing and unseated me,” Bognuda said.

Cecil’s jockey, Shaun Fannin, reckoned he had the race in safe keeping a long way out.

“He had improved a lot from when I rode him here two weeks ago and I knew he would,” Fannin said.

The Western success wrapped up a fantastic weekend for the Wanganui jockey. He won the Waikato steeples and hurdles at Te Rapa on Saturday.

“It’s one [of those weekends] I’ll always remember,” Fannin, 20, said.

“The Western is a prestigious race . . . I can now tick it off my bucket list.”

Fannin missed four months of the jumps season last year when breaking a collarbone in the Grand National Hurdles at Riccarton and suffering concussion in a race fall on the flat at New Plymouth.

Gargamel, who finished second to Cecil on Sunday, lost his winning chance at the third last jump. Alan Browne was lucky to stay in the saddle.

“He put in an extra stride going into it and slipped on landing,” Browne said.

“He was going exceptional at the time, just cruising.”

Mudlark Revenge cleared out by 17 lengths to win the Great Western Hurdles.

Winning jockey Stuart Higgins was confident going into the race after he and Revenge  were seven-length winners over hurdles at Riverton on May 4.

“We knew he’d be better [for the Western] and we knew he’d love the ground,” Higgins said.

“He’s really tough.”

A flag start was used for the Great Western Hurdles because the barrier faced the strong winds and would have struggled to open properly.

Seven-year-old Revenge is the only jumper in training with Higgins’  employer, Kelvin Tyler, of Riverton.

Belle Boy (Coastal Landscaping Maiden), Clareville Flight (Riverton Butchery Handicap) and Keep The Courage (Pankhurst Sawmilling Handicap) were other winners from Tyler’s stable on Sunday.

Clareville Flight matched Revenge’s winning margin of 17 lengths.

Tyler also trained four winners at Riverton on Easter Saturday, March 26. His flat winners on Sunday were ridden by his apprentice Kevin Kalychurun.

Kalychurun rode a total of nine winners at the Riverton Racing Club’s four meetings this season. His five wins at the two-day Easter meeting helped him to win the leading rider’s trophy for the carnival. 

Meanwhile, Timy Tyler and Hayley Maree, also trained by Tyler, are en-route to the Otaki stables of Howie Mathews for a North Island campaign. They will race at Trentham on Saturday, with Timy Tyler contesting the Trentham Gold Cup and Hayley Maree stepping out in the North Island Challenge Stakes.